Sunday 18 March 2018

Bound by Barry Napier


A shaken faith. A terrorizing evil. And one dark secret. 

As John Brighton is cleaning his church one night, a distressed and frightened man shows up looking for help. John reluctantly decides to lend a hand and as a result, comes face to face with a dark side of spirituality he hardly knew existed. 

A young man named Donovan has been possessed by what John assumes can only be a demon. When John learns Donovan and Sean, John's son, are connected, he begins to understand just how close to home this possession hits. And he can’t ask Seth for answers because his son has been in a coma for nearly a year. 

Through a dark maze of spiritual warfare and shaken faith, John discovers the accident that placed his son into a coma and led to Donovan's possession is linked to a dark secret he must unravel to not only rid Donovan of the demon, but to save his son's life.

The Guru's Review: 

I chose this novel at the author's request to review one or more from his published works. I am glad I chose this one, it has proved to be a wise choice. The reason for choosing was I love the genre of spiritual warfare, especially when it is based on biblical principles and its worldview. The other reason was that I wanted to see if this account of demon possession would be dealt with based on those two previous criteria. Napier succeeds very well here. 

Napier does this with flair and even on other aspects of pace, action, characterisation, plot. This is one easy to read novel, well constructed and flows well, the pace has no peaks followed by troughs, just one action scene after the other, that takes the reader on a journey to discover how Donovan became demon possessed, how John's comatose son is involved and why the attempts of Pastor Paul and Cal, Christian "exorcist", are not succeeding spiritually in delivering Donovan from his demonic bondage. However, the action from the second half of the novel has the thrills and action intensified as the plot gears up for its dramatic conclusion. 

Napier spends the first half of this novel setting the scene for how John becomes involved in this demonic possession (from the first chapter), how this possession is expressed in and through Donovan, the attempts from Pastor Paul and Cal to deliver Donovan, how John and his wife attempt to piece together the puzzle as to how their son Sean is involved, including why he is comatose. It is also here that we see the true nature of the demonic spirits, their hatred of the human race, especially of Christians, represented by Paul and Cal, their supernatural powers and abilities, foul stench in the area where Donovan is, the cold, frigid, oppressive temperature of the house, a vase floating in mid-air then shattering, magazine pages being fanned out slowly.

Other manifestations include the convulsing of Donovan's body and body parts being slapped against the furniture, arching of his back, having urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control), his teeth chattering, while the demonic spirits, who call themselves the Six vocalise deep-throated growls that become streams of obscenities, with each of the voices alternating with every word. When Cal attempts to get close to Donovan, the spirits controlling him physically attack him by slapping him across the face so violently that blood is drawn and he almost falls back onto the floor but manages to maintain his stance. 

These, of course, add tension, suspense and evoke fear in the reader. Normal reaction. This is heightened when all the attempts of Paul and Cal are unsuccessful in using the Word of God, prayer and to deliver and banish the demons from Donovan. Every failed attempt provokes in the reader the question of why this is unsuccessful when the Word is clear that using the Name of Jesus and many other verses together with prayer and fasting are more than enough to exorcise demons from humans. Napier has a reason for this that becomes evident in the second half that springboards the plot to its dramatic and satisfying conclusion. I must confess that I was beginning to lose faith in Napier's ability up to this point that he was basing this novel on Biblical principles and began to wonder if he was adding poetic licence to these. To me, that would have been one big "No No" and would have considered abandoning reading the rest of the novel.

However, just when I was about to do this, I had reached the second half and a twist in plot occurred that had me hooked again. This time, Napier provides the backstory to how Sean and Donovan are involved in the demonic that leads to Donovan's possession. From this point on, the tension and suspense escalate as we learn in intimate details what Sean experiences being comatose, which he summaries as being in a darkness where it was not life, but it was not death either. Sean compartmentalises the dark as his Grandfather's barn, that has two doors, both opened slightly. One he avoids, while the other door has the opposite effect, it is inviting. However, he felt that to understand why he was in the darkness, he had to open the first door and venture through it. And once he did, it was a point of no return. 

And it is through this door and in the next chapters, Napier describes the events that led to both Sean and Donovan being confronted with the demonic that led to their possession. It is one creepy tale and my heart was pounding as I read this entire account. The alarming thing that Napier succeeds in doing is describing how easy it is to "invite" these demons into your body/life even if you had not intentionally sought them out. In the case of Donovan, Sean and the other person possessed, Jack, all they had to do was visit a known place of demon worship and that had unexplained, supernatural phenomena and venture in, unarmed, unprepared, ignorant of the existence of the demonic or how an innocent "mocking" of its demonic symbol (pentagram) was enough to have these demons interpret their behaviour as an open invitation for possession. 

Once Napier is finished with this backstory, Napier lays the foundation for the final confrontation between John, Paul, Cal and the Six. More twists and turns as the latter up their resistance to the Word of God, Paul is spiritually attacked by them causing him to become unconscious. Cal, nearly ready to give up, is given a Word from the Spirit to remain calm, deliverance is nigh and to be patient. 

What happens next is where the true Biblical principles come into action and where the Spirit again shows His Sovereignty over everything, in this case, demonic possession and demonic strongholds. Napier shines in his account here. He shows that the reason for the previous failure of Paul and Cal and to a lesser degree John's involvement was the status of their faith and their heart towards God and how unprepared they were to go into combat. It is only through John getting right with God, being prayed up and resubmitting to the Lordship of Christ did the Spirit infill Himself into John for him to be His vessel and the Six having to obey and submit to the commands of the Word of God that flowed forth from John via the Spirit and were banished from Donovan and Sean. Even the Six released there was something different about John that was not there before when they would taunt and weaken his faith. They now began to feel threatened and insecure about their victory in possessing Donovan and Sean. John delivered the Rhema (specific Word of God or Bible verse) he had received from God to the Six and this was successful in banishing them to where they belong and freeing Donovan. So it is the power of the Word and the Spirit that conquered the demonic possession over Donovan. I was pleased that Napier used two of my favourite Bible verses to show the authority we have from God to overcome demonic power,
I have given you the authority to trample snakes and scorpions and to destroy the enemy’s power. Nothing will hurt you. (Luke 10: 19, God's Word Translation)
For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earthand every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, Broadman Holman Translation)
I wondered about the spiritual attack on Pastor Paul and what happened there, but Napier explains yet another defence against the demonic that is not just specifically against the deliverance against demons but is for everyday life and that is the Armour of God, 
10 Finally, receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty strength. 11 Put on all the armor that God supplies. In this way you can take a stand against the devil’s strategies. 12 This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world. 13 For this reason, take up all the armor that God supplies. Then you will be able to take a stand during these evil days. Once you have overcome all obstacles, you will be able to stand your ground.
14 So then, take your stand! Fasten truth around your waist like a belt. Put on God’s approval as your breastplate. 15 Put on your shoes so that you are ready to spread the Good News that gives peace. 16 In addition to all these, take the Christian faith as your shield. With it you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Also take salvation as your helmet and God’s word as the sword that the Spirit supplies.
18 Pray in the Spirit in every situation. Use every kind of prayer and request there is. For the same reason be alert. Use every kind of effort and make every kind of request for all of God’s people. 19 Also pray that God will give me the right words to say. Then I will speak boldly when I reveal the mystery of the Good News. 20 Because I have already been doing this as Christ’s representative, I am in prison. So pray that I speak about this Good News as boldly as I have to. (Ephesians 6: 10-20)
Paul states that yes, he was attacked but what protected him was this spiritual armour of God, it protected him from the spiritual effects of this demonic attack. He suffered physical effects without these being permanent and spiritually unaffected. Such is the power of the Armour of God. 

There are only two concerns I have about this novel and it does not concern the theology of this tome. The first is the numbers that the Six were repeating over and over to John and company. Once John had finally worked out what they meant, I could not see what relevance they had to the story or why the Six were repeating them. But this did not detract from the plot or alter the outcome. The only point to this plot discrepancy was that it led John and Maggie to consult with Sean's girlfriend for more information but that could have been achieved in a much simpler means that through these numbers from the Six. 

The other concern I had was no mention is made of what happened to Jack, who was also demon possessed. He is not mentioned at all following their escape from the demonic stronghold and he was the first one showing physical signs of possession. 

I am glad that Napier showed another positive outcome of demon possession. It would not surprise me that in reality those affected by seeing loved ones, friends or otherwise who have gone through deliverance who are not Christians or do believe in the Bible become believers and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour following this event, including those who have been possessed. I could be daring and say what more proof do these two groups need to believe the Gospel of Christ after this event? It was so good to see that Donovan's uncle, Bob, see the reality of the situation and where this demonic event comes from and accept the offering of salvation after discussing this whole event with Pastor Paul. 

All in all, a very cleverly constructed account of demon possession and the use of Biblical principles to deal with it. Kudos to this author for adhering to these principles on this important spiritual issue.Any poetic licence would just water down its importance and make a mockery of the Sovereignty of God over everything, including the demonic.

Very happy to have been introduced to this author's writing and it won't be the last! 

Highly recommended.  

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Story 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

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Saturday 10 March 2018

The Light in the Darkness: Children of the light by Timothy W. Tron

The keepers of the Word continue their battle against the darkness in this sequel to Bruecke to Heaven. Jakob, Arktos, and the rest of the Huguenot force find their victory against General Lucier and his Papal army short lived. Lost in a blizzard, they seek shelter only to find their battle had just begun. Meanwhile, the survivors of the Vaudois massacre, both good and evil, seek to recover and rebuild, but not as you may expect. Each find their road to recovery wrought with life-changing choices. Those who have left their homeland to seek out others to enlist in their cause find a lost civilisation and become embroiled in trying to survive in a world much like their ancestors before them; yet, unlike those forefathers, they have God to see them through. Lastly, we find spirits colliding in a struggle of the light and darkness when a hermit and his wolf make a startling discovery, one that will change the fate of all who call themselves the people of the Vaudois, or the Children of the Light.

The Guru's Review:

This sequel has been highly anticipated and I am so glad it is has finally! It was such a joy to read Bruecke to Heaven again in preparation for this. I would suggest anyone do this as this second novel follows so well from the previous. After its cliffhanger ending, you are instantly immersed in the continuing events of the Tron family and other characters.

If any reader considers that Julia, Rebecca, Peter, Marik, Berg, Arktos, Jacob, Anna, Jean Paul, Albert, have been through enough, well, Tron does not let them off lightly in this novel. In fact, everything is upped and intensified. The darkness of the demonic forces is wrapped around them tighter than in the previous novel and they are further challenged in their faith and relationship with God. But God is faithful and they are strengthened by God's intervention in direct and indirect ways. Their bruecke (bridge) to heaven remains intact and is even strengthened further.

Tron sets up five plots arcs running concurrently. There is Arktos, Peter, Marik, Berg, Galack, Jakob and Anna on one quest, while Jean Paul and Albert on another. Julia, her daughters and the rest of the Vaudois community are still surviving in the upper levels of the mountains deciding to train and send out evangelists with the Word. We have Dabria and Lucier on their spiritual quest and later in the novel, Lucier is mandated to continue on his own then we have a new character, a hermit and his she-wolf, Lukos, tending to the physical and spiritual needs of a character from the first novel that readers will have to guess his identity until this is revealed later in the novel. This plagued me until I worked it out and was pleasantly surprised!. All these plot arcs deepen the mystery and suspense, action and adventure and totally absorb you. In each of the arcs, you wonder what is going to happen next. You become more endeared to these characters and share their emotions with them as if you are there.

Speaking of Lukos, the she-wolf, Tron has her as a side plot and if read just on its own, he proves himself as a competent author of animal fiction. This was one of the many highlights of this novel. I loved Lukos and the relationship she had with her master, the hermit, and as the novel progressed, with the one that the hermit was healing back to health. Lukos plays an important role throughout this novel and she becomes just another of the many characters that you become endeared to. Tron has developed this animal and her recognition of the spiritual and human realm very well without coming across as if Lukos is more than an animal. 

This novel is so much more infused with spiritual aspects and the Spirit of God than the previous. When I read of the spiritual warfare that Tron portrays here, it is surreal in the sense that we do not experience it in real life to this extent but it does show that it is attainable and available to us now as it has always been. Tron simply shows that it is due to having a pure heart towards God, in submission and trust in Him alone. But more importantly, through the Tron family characters, namely Arktos, Jakob, Jean Paul, Tron shows such a simple and proven way to do this and that is to live out our faith, exercise it if you will. It is just as the Word says, 
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. [James 1:22-25 New King James Version (NKJV)]
Another aspect that Tron shows in this spiritual warfare is that these same characters do not rely on their own strength but on God and God alone, and He responds not just by His power, but by His Spirit in many signs and wonders and the infilling and flow of His Presence and Power when they are in prayer, seeking His guidance and direction or when involved in attacks from the many forms of the demonic. Another aspect that supports this is when Arktos admits that he has placed all his hope in an artefact (glowing stone) infused with spiritual power and is surprised when God does not use it when Arktos commands the stone to express its power upon his command.
He continued to pray something would change or at least give them a sign, for he had put all his hopes on this stone providing them the power to slay as many of the Viscount's guard as posssible, yet nothing happened.
It was then, as the last thought had passed, like a cloud overhead, when he realised his error. 
"Puting his hopes in the stone.....and not God."
He had once again been putting his faith in something other than God the Father. He asked for forgiveness, knowing too well the scriptures that warned of such foolishness, the multitudes who awaited Moses descent from the mount were proof of that. 
And once he had accepted God's forgiveness, God acted on Arktos's plan and delivered them from their adversary.

Tron delivers this with enough action and adventure, suspense and thrills while being extremely entertaining and does not detract from the lessons of spiritual warfare he wants to deliver in this narrative. I pray that readers will not compartmentalize these, leaving them in the confines of this novel and character traits but realise that this is how we need to be living.

When I look at the various forms of the demonic that the various members of the Tron family were confronted with, it all boils down to this same factor mentioned above, being submitted to God, trusting in Him and obedient to His Word, practising a lifestyle of prayer, being doers of the Word by living out their faith and applying the principles that God has structured the Bible in how to live. And yet there are specific principles used for each to defeat this evil and its perpetrators throughout this novel and its predecessor such as
  • quoting specific Bible (verses) appropriate to the situation at hand, 
  • putting on the Armour of God (Ephesians 6: 10-20), 
  • singing songs based on the Psalms and others while under the Anointing of the Spirit (as Jakob did), 
  • playing musical instruments (again as Jakob did with the Lyra while under the anointing of the Spirit).
  • walking in the Spirit. Physically as well as spiritually. Many examples of this through Jakob, Arktos, Jean Paul, Lucier. However, the most noted are Jakob and Arktos. They both had overcome their human frailty, their fears and looked past their physical senses. They acted solely in total obedience to God's prompting and guidance. 
Tron is very competent at describing and showing what this demonic looks like as the reader experiences all the evilness that accompanies it. His description is not short, shallow or implied. It is in your face, and explicit. It is shown through Shamus, and Pope Lucius III, the former being possessed by the spirit of a fallen angel, Semyaza, while the latter is oppressed by the demonic and fueled by his own greed and pride. 

Shining through all this as well as its predecessor is the Sovereignty of God. Tron is encouraging us to consider this in every aspect of our lives as we live out His Word. God is Sovereign and any outcome is His if we are living according to His precepts and direction and are in His will. He has everything under control despite our wavering faith, sense of hopelessness, or our finite vision (not physical only) that is incapable of seeing the whole picture of our circumstances and its future. Just as in our lives, God will not leave nor forsake us and when He gives us a quest, mission or task, He will not allow the enemy to thwart our attempts. Tron has portrayed this truth almost as if all these Biblical principles are fabricated as part of a purely fantasy novel. 

After reading both novels this is the impressions I have experienced:  
  • I have been entertained immensely, 
  • My faith and relationship with God has been strengthened and uplifted, 
  • Tron has not deviated from established Biblical doctrine, and his content will not, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • He writing and content honours God and portrays God as He is from the many character traits outlined in the Bible (Deliverer, Provider, Redeemer, Sovereign, Healer, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscience, Warrior, Conqueror, 
  • His writing does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels, man, animals) but of the Creator (God) instead. 
  • it promotes the power and practice of prayer  as a lifestyle and to an unadulterated relationship with God
Christians know the power of the Word and of the Spirit in transforming the spirit of unregenerate man. Tron shows this very powerfully in the conversion of Lucier. It is one of the most descriptive conversions I have read for a while. Then seeing him have a heart after God reminds me very much of the Psalmist, David, including Lucier's Godly remorse at his adultery and how he dealt with this spiritually. His remorse is tender, sincere, heartfelt and it is tangible as you read it. It is not directed at himself but at God and it reminded me so much like David the Psalmist felt when he wrote to God in Psalm 51:4, 
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight
It struck me as how it should be and needs to be whenever a Christian falls into sin, no matter what type.

Julia's reaction to Lucier's confession is just as tender, sincere and heartfelt. Both of their reactions to this sin is devoid of any of the usual human emotions we experience today that can become stumbling blocks to being restored to God. But then again, this situation described by Tron shows the work of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of these two and their submission and obedience to Him.

I have not singled out this situation as the only time such reactions towards human shortcomings and sin are in these novels. It is an example that shows how we can have such a humble, tender, submitted and pure relationship with God when we fall to sin or allow our humanness to take over. It is described by Tron as not idealistic or unrealistic. It resonated with me and was very relatable. And so it should be to all who read this novel.

I must make some mention here of the radio interviews that I would encourage any reader to listen to. It enriches the enjoyment of both these novels when you understand the background to them as Tron describes his genealogy and spiritual heritage. It adds power and credibility to these novels and their poetic licence does not detract or minimise this heritage.

Both can be found here: 

Spiritual Heritage -- The Parker J Cole Show

Once this novel took off after the first chapter, I was totally absorbed and on the edge of my seat, figuratively speaking, and I was exhausted many times throughout. Despite the frustration of having to stop reading to either return from lunch or to and from work, this was a blessing as it gave me time to reflect on the spiritual side of the many topics that uplifted me, encouraged me to know Jesus better and to have a tender heart towards Him. I must confess, the relationship Tron described between the Vaudois characters towards each other and them towards God, convicted me and I found myself having some conversations with God regarding this.

There is definitely the power and presence of God in this novel. I said similar in my review of Bruecke to Heaven: 

I knew when I read the description of this book that I would be blessed and that this book is unique and special. This book has not let me down. I finished this speechless due to being in awe of everything related to it. Truly, this book is inspired by God and many times, I could feel His presence with me. I have had that with only a few books. I will never forget this book. It really does have a profound effect on how you see God and how you have experienced Him. It has made me want more of Him and a desire to increase my faith and always be in His will.
I can apply the same here in this novel. 

When I finished this novel, I posted this on Facebook and Goodreads,
Words cannot express how brilliant, how powerful, how epic, how divinely inspired this novel is! It is definitely the most spirit-filled novel I have ever read.
I said that the first novel, Bruecke to Heaven, was special and unique, but now this novel takes it to the next level and this series is so unique, so special, it has impacted me like no other novel! Spiritually uplifting like no other Christian novel has!
This is one highly impressive novel. But then if it reflects the power of God, His wordm and the character of God, then we can expect nothing less!

Truly, an unforgettable novel and one that has impacted me like no other, together with its predecessor, Bruecke to Heaven. 

Highly recommended.

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Story 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Light in the Darkness: Children of the Light contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I award Timothy Tron with the

Reality Calling Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction Award

Congratulations, Timothy!

To buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon on the image below:

Friday 2 March 2018

Blog Tour: The Gevaudan Project by Alexander Preston

Today, I am featuring novelist, Alexander Preston in his blog tour promoting The Gevaudan Project which is being released on March 3rd, 2018. I have reviewed the previous edition, published as Harvest of Prey in October 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I jumped at the opportunity to feature him in an interview for this blog tour. 

So sit back and let Alexander explain what makes him tick as an author and the background behind The Gevaudan Project. 

Over to you, Alexander! Tell us a little about yourself. 

My name is Preston Klopfenstein. I’m originally from central Illinois but have lived in Sioux Falls, SD since 2013. I met my future wife almost right after the move, we married at the start of the following year, and have since been blessed with two wonderful children. In my day job, I work in operations at a local bank. I’ve been working on the story that became The Gevaudan Project for about four years now. 

What inspired you to become an author?

A lifelong love of books and an imagination that just couldn’t sit still. The concept of “what if?” has fascinated me as long as I can remember. As a kid, I actually made a game out of constantly asking my parent's hypothetical questions (driving them a bit batty in the process, I’m sure). I still gravitate to these basic questions as an adult “What could have been?” “What might be?” “What would happen if”, etc. Fiction to me is the single most powerful medium for exploring those very questions. 

I see that you write under a pen name. What is the reason for that? 

For one thing, my real name is a mouthful and takes up oodles of extra space! I’ll also confess that I’m a lifelong introvert and consider myself a very private person – it’s taken time to build up enough basic courage to put myself out there and openly express my ideas. A little thing like this helps by shifting the attention from me to the books I write. 

What is your favorite genre?

Science fiction, primarily action-oriented, Dean Koontz-style technothrillers. I also enjoy well-written fantasy in the tradition of both Tolkien and Lewis. For now, science fiction is my own genre of choice, though I may branch out into fantasy in the future.

What role does your faith play in your writing? 

I view my writing as, in a sense, an act of worship, using my creative talents to honor the Creator who gave them to me. My stories are meant as an exploration of the mystery and wonder implied by a biblical worldview. With that being said, I write “fiction written by a Christian” rather than specifically “Christian fiction.” I have a few different reasons for this, but the primary one is the following: I’m a member of the Apostolic Christian Church, which holds to a literal “non-resistance” interpretation of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, a belief we share in common with the Amish, Anabaptists and Mennonites. At the same time, following Romans 13, we also believe that God has ordained ministers on earth to combat evil by force (this passage primarily refers to government authorities, but I believe it can also embrace individuals). This created a bit of a challenge for me that doesn’t come up for most authors of action-oriented Christian fiction. For this reason, I’m not comfortable portraying my characters as “Christians” with doctrinal beliefs identical to my own. In The Gevaudan Project, I’ve made my main character a Roman Catholic even though I do not subscribe to the tenets of Catholicism. In the future, I may feature protagonists of Protestant, Orthodox and perhaps even Jewish beliefs. I draw my reasoning from the way the Bible shows God using such individuals as Cyrus of Persia and Alexander the Great to accomplish His purposes. A Christian can find much to admire in the lives and deeds of both these men without making them a model for his own – and acknowledge their very significant and un-Scriptural shortcomings in other areas. 

With that being said, I have hit upon a few ways of more explicitly expressing my true beliefs in my writing. The Gevaudan Project and its associated short stories, for example, introduce a new “mystery character” that was entirely absent in Harvest of Prey – his presence is used to illustrate what I believe is the most powerful role played by believers when it comes to earthly affairs. He appears only briefly, but I’m planning to include him in most of my future books as a common thread connecting all the events. Another long-term project I have in mind is a series of speculative historical fiction based on the Scriptural accounts. I would focus primarily on Genesis (particularly the pre-Flood world and time of Noah) but may perhaps continue on through the entire Bible. Here, I anticipate an opportunity to more fully express my beliefs through my characters. 

How have family and friends responded to your writing?

Quite a bit different, actually, from what I was expecting! I come from a very traditional and mostly rural faith community. I can think of only one other person within it that has written a work of fiction, and I can’t even remember his name at this time. I had a perception for some time that a fiction writer’s pursuit was “out of order” and it took time for me to see my imagination as a gift to be embraced rather than a temptation to fight. Think of someone from an Amish community deciding to write in the speculative genre (though I have heard of at least one such author who writes “Amish science fiction. The main turning point came when I had been wrestling with my creative urges for some time and finally went to my local pastor (“elder” as they call them in my church) to seek his counsel. He listened as I laid out everything in front of him, including the most far-out and seemingly bizarre of my story ideas. As it turned out, he gave me the most supportive response I could have hoped for – that my talent (and imagination) was indeed a gift from God and that I should seek to use it. He actually told me I was sincere enough that I would have fully accepted things if he had given me the opposite instruction – but then I would have left thinking “he just doesn’t understand me.” 

Since that time, I’ve received similarly positive responses from my church family – from both the younger and the older generation. I’ve even found some older members whose favorite genre is science fiction – something I never knew until I told them about my book, which they are eager to read. I’ve been blessed to find that a lot of my assumptions were based on nothing more than baseless fear. In some ways, I’ve tapped into a significant unmet demand I never even knew existed!

What inspired you to write The Gevaudan Project

Where do I even begin? Originally, my genre of choice was classical space opera – basically a fully-fleshed out galactic setting with a detailed ‘future history’ and multiple planets. I put this partially on hold so I could recover from “world-builder’s disease” – I was spending so much time constructing the setting that I wasn’t accomplishing any narrative writing. So I took a step back and started thinking about some more small-scale stories I could write. A thriller of some sort had the most natural appeal to me – Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy have become some of my favorite authors over the years, and I’ve also enjoyed Frank Peretti and some books by Michael Crichton. A somewhat more detailed account of how I determined the storyline specifics is available in a guest post here, but my basic idea was for a speculative story that would appeal to both the scientific and moral imagination. To summarize things heavily, I combined thematic elements from Peretti’s “Monster” and Crichton’s “State of Fear,” (Dean Koontz’s “Watchers” being another formative influence). The result was a genetic engineering and environmentally-based plot that explores the human use of knowledge for both Good and Evil. 

What kind of research did you do for this novel? 

Most of it took place online, where I read through multiple sources on environmental science, genetics, zoology, and artificial insemination – one scene is based almost entirely on a single YouTube clip I found depicting a collection procedure at a tiger sanctuary in Indonesia. Since most of the book actually takes place Indonesia, I was able to draw upon some previous knowledge from a college course where I wrote some papers on that country. I also did some research on political history, particularly as it relates to the environmental and population control movements. Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair proved a very informative resource in shaping the characters of my antagonists. 

One of the hardest parts of the process was getting information on the real-life physical locations appearing in my novel. Being that my travel budget is virtually non-existent, I made heavy use of Google Earth and filled in some gaps with my imagination and logic. Going forward, I hope to write about some places I can actually visit in person. 

How long did it take you to write the book? 

That’s actually a story in itself! The manuscript has gone through two different versions. It took me approximately a year and a half to write the original, which was about 150,000 words. I was very much a newbie to the publishing world, so I thought I could immediately self-publish through CreateSpace (without promotion or marketing of any kind aside from my blog and Facebook profile) while still pursuing a traditional publishing contract. I initially released the book as Harvest of Prey in October 2016 - You can actually find the original guest post [Guest post: Novelist Alexander Preston ] and review [Harvest of Prey by Alexander Preston ] for it on this very blog. I then sent a query to the Steve Laube Agency early the following year. 

Steve Laube expressed interest after seeing the first three chapters, though he recommended some key revisions. At the time I originally wrote it, I had Dean Koontz and Dostoevsky on the brain and was deliberately trying to make the book as long as possible. This resulted in multiple overwritten passages, particularly the dialogue. So I went through and did some editing that brought everything down to about 137,000 words before I sent the complete manuscript. 

Steve got back to me in July 2017 and said he really liked the book. There were some follow-up questions, however, regarding my decision to self-publish. Any previous sales figures would need to be reported to a potential publisher. That’s when I got my first big lesson in the publishing industry. Many traditional publishers only take on one first-time author per year, which makes the competition for that slot extremely fierce. It’s a big enough risk for them to take on an unknown writer with no previous sales history – but if they see someone who has sold books before but with anemic sales figures, they take that as a red flag that this person won’t give them a return on their investment. It’s by no means an in-depth or fully accurate process, but it’s all they have the time and resources for. 

Ultimately, Steve had to tell me “not yet”. He didn’t want to put either of us in the position of seeing me fail for non-writing-related reasons. He did leave the door open for the future though – he said I had a great story, but he’d be better able to bring me on board if I came back with sales in the thousands. 

You can probably imagine what I was thinking and feeling after that kind of a setback – so close, yet so far! But I picked myself up and decided on a new approach. I made a few revisions to the manuscript in addition to those Steve already recommended to me, retired Harvest of Prey from Amazon, and took the time to construct a detailed launch and marketing plan under a new title. That process has taken me just under seven months, and the result has been The Gevaudan Project. All in all, the total time I’ve spent working with both versions comes to about four years. 

What are some themes you explore in this novel? 

You can call The Gevaudan Project a straightforward monster story, but the book is first and foremost, a story of Good and Evil (most of it of a very human variety). One thing constantly on my mind throughout the writing process was that eco-terrorism and its related movements rarely receive an intelligent portrayal in fiction. Hollywood depictions, in particular, are either entirely positive or strongly sympathetic. Few of us have any concept of just how toxic these ideas are or their roots in literally fascist [Fascist Ecology: The "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents] ideologies. Most environmental groups of modern times have either abandoned human exceptionalism or, worse, perverted it to place an opposite value on human life. My story is meant to vividly illustrate the moral consequences of this worldview. What sort of actions follow from the basic idea that human beings are nothing more than vermin infesting an otherwise pristine planet? 

One thing observant readers will also notice is that my antagonists, while seemingly committed to the same ultimate goal, all have their own set of priorities and agendas, some of them diametrically opposed to the others. In one corner, you have the fanatical true believers, in another the cynical, self-interested manipulators and in yet another the amoral “useful idiots” who really don’t care what happens so long as they’re given a free hand to exercise their proclivities (most of the scientist characters fall into this category). Which of these groups truly controls the other? Can there, in fact, be any form of honor among thieves? This, incidentally, has allowed me to explore other ideas in addition to the main environmental element, namely the shortcomings of materialistic Darwinism and the ethics of genetic engineering.

To tie things in a bit with what I’ve said earlier regarding my faith and my writing, I’ve also sought to explore the ways in which God uses different individuals on earth (with all their flaws and shortcomings) as instruments for good in the face of seemingly overwhelming evil. We’re told in Job that “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.” In the end, even the best-laid plans of the wicked are doomed to failure. Though Scripture gives us no guarantee of earthly justice, neither does it say that God assigns no value to it – quite the opposite, in fact, as can be readily demonstrated from both sacred and secular history. Evil may seem triumphant for a time, but judgment is inevitable, both in the long-run and in the short – ultimately culminating in the Final Judgment at the end of time. 

Do you plan any more books in the future? 

The working title for my next book is “TALOS” which I plan to start in earnest once I finish up the launch for The Gevaudan Project. I expect the writing process to take at least as long as it did for the initial version of my first book, but hopefully not a full four years! Similar to how The Gevaudan Project explores ideas like radical environmentalism, this one will explore transhumanist ideology – focusing especially on Artificial Intelligence and human augmentation. All I’ll say beyond that is the book will be set in my current hometown of Sioux Falls, SD. 

What advice would you give to other Christian authors? 

There are good points to be said in favor of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Based on my own experience, I would just recommend choosing one or the other. If you take the self-publishing route, make sure you take the time to go all the way. If you prefer a traditional publishing contract, be sure to make that your singular focus – you can shoot yourself in the foot if you move too fast in other areas. 

Even more important: don’t let your fear of others’ opinions prevent you from writing – your church family may be far more supportive than you think.

This comes to the end of our interview. 

Thank you, Alexander, for such a revealing behind the scenes view into yourself as a novelist and background to The Gevaudan Project.

For readers who want to explore more of this novel and the background to it, Alexander was interviewed by Parker J Cole on The Write Stuff radio show. Click here to listen.

Another interview can be found here: 

Writers Authors Onfire: A. K. Preston

Alexander can be found on these social media platforms: 

Author Website: Empyrean Voyager

To preorder this novel, click on the icon below:

Alexander, what a great interview! Thank you so much for introducing us to the world of The Gevaudan Project and insights into your world as an author. I am sure once readers read this interview they will want to investigate this novel and look forward to your future novels. You are one new author to follow and support. 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian inspirational, science fiction and fantasy and futuristic fiction to consider reading The Gevaudan Project and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Thursday 1 March 2018

Bruecke To Heaven: Children of the Light by Timothy Tron

I originally published this review on 09/05/14. I have read it again in preparation for the sequel, The Light in the Darkness, now released. On behalf of Reality Calling, I have bestowed upon Timothy a Spirit-filled Fiction Award as this novel now meets the criteria for Spirit-filled fiction as part of The Reality Calling Christian Fiction Awards. These were instigated since this review was published. The Award can be viewed at the end of this review. 

I appreciated this novel better the second time around.  

Again, it has challenged me to remain submitted to God in all things and to trust Him in the same. Reading this, I long to have more of the simple faith that Arktos, Jacob, and Jean Paul have just the way God intended. One of the lessons I have learned reading this novel and what maybe Tron wants readers to embrace is that this faith is attainable as we live out the Word of God in our lives and as we have a righteous relationship with God upon salvation, we have a bridge (bruecke) to Heaven. As John says in John 1:1, Jesus is the Word and therefore the Word is alive. 
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (God's Word translation)
Not only is there power in the Blood of Christ, but there is power in the Word. Jakob showed this powerfully as he sang the Word of God with his gift from God and the power of the Spirit was very evident in signs and wonders in protecting Jakob and those in his company during physical and spiritual attack/warfare. I will not forget this novel. It holds a very special place in my heart and in my spiritual maturity.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel and being further spiritually uplifted, entertained, and challenged.

Below is my original review:

Bruecke to Heaven: Children of the Light

When two of Jesus' seventy disciples are sent into the wilderness, they find themselves in a remote Alpine valley delivering the Word of God to an ancient people. A miraculous event occurs and they realize they are not only to give them the Word but the abilities and gifts that go with it; one of which becomes memorization. Centuries later, when the people of the valley are asked to leave their homelands because of their known gift, their memorization of the entire Bible, a journey and adventure like none other begins. They quickly learn they had been imbued with more than just one ability, and soon, their bridge to Heaven becomes a race for their lives.

The Guru's Review:

I knew when I read the description of this book that I would be blessed and that this book is unique and special. This book has not let me down. I finished this speechless due to being in awe of everything related to it. Truly, this book is inspired by God and many times, I could feel His presence with me. I have had that with only a few books. I will never forget this book. It really does have a profound effect on how you see God and how you have experienced Him. It has made me want more of Him and a desire to increase my faith and always be in His will.

This is the first book I have read from Timothy Tron and it won't be the last if of course, he chooses to write more after the coming sequel, which is in the works at the moment. His writing style, command of the English language and imagination transport you to the 1100s AD, set in both the alpine area of France and also in Lyon. You are more than a spectator in this novel, you are there with all the characters as if you are part of the plot. I found it difficult coming back to reality every time I stopped reading. His characters are all very relational and three dimensional, well developed and believable whether they are protagonists or antagonists.

Tron has created some very admirable and loveable characters in the protagonists,  Arktos, elder of the Vaudois people, Jakob his grandson, Peter Waldo (real name Augustus Pizan but uses the name of Peter Waldo who existed years before him), Marik and Steffan who seek out the Apostle Speakers (the Vaudoisians who have been imbued with the gift of memorization of the entire Scriptures), Gabriel (Waldo's right-hand man and whom you are forever thinking is he really the angel Gabriel or not?), Jean Paul, Jakob's older brother, Julia, Jakob and Jean Paul's mother. There is an emotional investment in these characters as you read. Everything they go through you feel it with them, joy, grief, horror, sadness, stubborn faith, righteous indignation, victorious elation.

The same goes for the antagonists, the main two being General Lucier and Pope Lucias III. These two embody the evilness and corruptness of the Roman Catholic Church, both are power hungry, corrupt, manipulative and deceitful and deluded into thinking that they are doing the will of God by persecuting and eradicating anyone who defies the teachings of the Catholic Church. Both have no issue with murder, torture or persecution to achieve their aims: recant your faith and convert to Catholicism or die. You feel their hatred towards the Vaudosians, you recoil in horror at their persecution of those who defy them, and the methods of killing they employ, you can feel the evil oppression they exude, yet you feel pity for them for them when you see this evilness taking them over and blinding them from the Truth that is so ever before them.

Here is what Lucias considers of himself:
......for I am the embodiment of heaven on earth, and if it is my will, it shall be done!
He sees and hates the Vaudoisians and their gift as a threat to his papacy: 
Yet, there it was: the fact that they had preserved the Word of God of their own accord-a Word not compiled by mankind, but that was given to them reportedly from the sources themselves. What would it do to the power of the papacy should it become known? or worse yet, what if the unknown Word produced an entirely different view of the hereafter or the road to perdition?.....
Then there was the other, more-distressing side note: the fact that the books these people quoted were exactly as they had received them, unfiltered and encompassing all of the writing and teachings that followed the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. This Word they possessed gave a power that bound them to one ruler, but a ruler who was not of this earth. That in of itself sent a shiver of terror down the papal spine, causing him to shudder at the thought.
Tron's research into this era, the Vaudois people, the aforementioned corruptness of the Catholic Church and their politics add depth and credibility to the story. It is hard to believe that this is a novel and not the account of actual events as they happened, including the supernatural intervention of God in various ways as described that is just not commonplace in today's world.

I can see Tron's passion throughout as it is loosely based on his family genealogy from his paternal side. When I read this on his author page on Amazon, I was further intrigued and contacted him about this. He sent me an account of his discovery and it is very captivating.

Here it is, in part:
In 1995, my late Aunt June Tron gave us a one-of-a-kind housewarming gift; a genealogy binder including information about the town in Germany from whence we came along with our pedigree, all the way back to the founding father's of the little town, Walldorf Germany.

In 1998, we decided to take a trip to Germany.........We pulled up in front of the Heimat Museum........That was the next phase of my research as I began drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant of knowledge. I found that Tron's had existed as part of the Waldensians from the beginning and I then began to learn what it meant to be Waldensian. The people from the valleys had migrated to Germany in 1699 and built Walldorf from scratch. Two of the original families were my direct ancestors. The rest of the link and how they go back in time genealogically can be explained at a later time; suffice it to say, its a long, long tale.

The story and the tale of which you are reading are closely intertwined, but what made me begin writing the book was the conflict of how they received their iconic name versus how they actually became who they were; meaning, Peter Waldo did not cause Waldensians to exist, rather, he became famous because of who the Waldnesian people already were; thus, the impetus for starting to tell our side of the story. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned, "Why would these people struggle for over 600 years, fight in over 30 wars and face extinction of their kind all because of what they believed." Then I realized I had to tell the story from the perspective of "BEING" Waldensian. There had been many books written about Waldensians and their struggles, but none had been written from the point of view of what it was to be Waldensian and how that fact formulated who you were and how you faced adversity.
What Timothy means about "BEING" Waldensian is very aptly described and forms one of the main backbones of this novel. Peter Waldo, actually existed and the term Waldensian is based on his name.

I wondered about the name of the novel, what did Bruecke mean (bridge) and why have a German word in an English title? It was this strange looking title that drew me to this book in the first place. Timothy explains again:
In time, the meaning of some of what I have put down becomes clear; and so it was with the title, "Bruecke to Heaven". Initially, my timeline was going to extend through their migration to Germany, thus I decided to include that influence in the title. But later, when it became apparent that my 600 year timeline would only progress only about a year and a half in the first book, I questioned if I really should keep that working title. I felt compelled to keep the title foreign in language, but didn't know why. Recently, I was driving to work and was listening to a song on the radio when it hit me why the title fits. People who are not Christians, come into Christianity not knowing anything about it and with time, learn how and what it is to become a Christian. Then, like the obscure title, they realize the meaning and eventually accept Christ into their life, and as such, the title becomes clear.
I also questioned Timothy about the surname of Arktos, the main character, which was LeTron. Was this the original surname of his ancestry? Timothy had this covered too:
Like the title, I didn't realize why I felt compelled to use a form of my family name for the characters in the book either, but something said to me that it was important to do so. Last year, while attending a Waldensian Festival in Valdese NC., I learned from a young man who was from the Alpine valleys where the Waldnesians came, was there doing research and he explained to me what my name actually meant in the ancient language of the valleys; Tron meant "One with Strength" and that they often gave their warriors this title. Needless to say, I was once again blown away. Even though my book was already in print by then, I felt good about keeping the form of the name intact and that indeed it was an important part of the actual history.
Interestingly, Tron has portrayed the LeTron family (Julia, Mary, Arktos, Jakob, Jean Paul, Rebecca and Angela) as a very strong family by nature and by faith without knowing what his name meant. 

Faith is a strong feature in this novel. How I now long to have the faith of Arktos and Jakob! The author portrays the Vaudoisians living the Word so vividly and naturally, it is literally their first nature. And in this novel, these two and the Vaudoisians know no different as their ancestors have lived this way since two of the seventy disciples (Olympas and Herodian) delivered the Word of God to them. At this delivery, God imbues them with the ability to remember and quote the entire Word/Bible. So for generations over the centuries, until the time of the Crusades where this story is set, this closely knit community, almost cut off from the secular world, live and act out the Word; for them, it is a tangible experience, the Word being literally alive. Tron even mentions this in his Introduction: Author's Notes:
It had been memorized word for word and passed down from one generation to the next, preserving not only the mere lines of Scripture but the ultimate spiritual power it possessed in its infancy. Regarding this "Word," the Bible reads in John 1:1-5,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.
 Yet in truth, there were some who did not recognize the Word and the light, and this is their story.
The spiritual warfare aspects of this novel are very unique and different from any I have read in other biblical supernatural thrillers. In all the instances portrayed in the novel we see the power of the Word manifested through either chanting or singing Scripture: Arktos and his elders chanting Scripture as the papal army invade their village of Rora and the papal army is destroyed and at the end of the novel, Arktos chants Scripture when the papal army is about to capture them, defeating them. Jakob discovers that when he sings Scripture, the same happens; when he plays the lira the power of God either defeats their enemy or confuses them, in one instances him playing this lira disguises their compound as empty as the papal army invades and search it even when Arktos, Jacob, Peter, Gabriel and their staff are still present in the compound, another where the group he was in passes by in a mist, unheard of by the papal army, as they moved close by them on their journey homeward bound. I know these occurrences are due to the other gifts imbued by God when He delivered the Word via the disciples, but it does make me consider how it would be if Christians were able to do the same in the reality of our world in this 21st century?

All in all, this is one very memorable novel that has had a profound effect on me. It is has encouraged and strengthened my faith and relationship with Christ, witness to my family and community, inspired and challenged me to stand up for the Gospel and have a ready defence for the same just as 1 Peter 3:15 says:
....but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
It is one book that needs to be read again (and most likely again!).

Highly recommended.

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Story 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5


Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Bruecke to Heaven contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I award Timothy Tron with the

Reality Calling Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction Award

Congratulations, Timothy!

To read a preview or buy this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon on the image below: